Updated: Jun 2, 2020
Are hot flushes, brain fog, mood swings and joint pain the inevitable symptoms of the menopause?
We seem to have accepted that menopause equates to having a whole host of unwanted symptoms ranging from the inconvenient to the serious, such as heart disease and osteoporosis.
However, why is it that women in Eastern cultures don’t seem to suffer in the same way that women in the West do?
It’s reported that Chinese women, for example, have a consistently low chance of developing any symptoms at all and hot flushes are so rare among middle-aged women in Japan that there isn’t a direct translation for them.
It seems that menopause is also viewed differently in Eastern cultures. Mayan women look forward to it as a time of newfound freedom and status. Known as the “second spring” it can be thought of as a time of renewal, bringing a new sense of purpose and growth and embracing future possibilities. In Ayurveda, it is described as a time for ‘soul development’.
Even the way menopause is described is different. The Japanese word for menopause (konenki) translates as both ‘renewal of life’ and ‘energy’.
Of course, all women’s bodies undergo the same physical transitions during menopause regardless of culture however the transition presents a gentler easing into advanced age versus the Western image of slamming into old age and a life devoid of purpose or joy.
Factors such as genetics, gut microbiota, nutrition and lifestyle all play an important role in the incidence of menopausal symptoms but do our beliefs also play a role too? The damaging stigma of how menopause is viewed in Western society definitely plays a role in how women value themselves, how ageing is interpreted and therefore experienced. If wisdom and life experience were celebrated more in society, rather than just the glorification of youth, would the experience be different?